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Adams ready for new role as LLSWD general manager
2/27/2013 3:42:30 PM

By Craig Howard
Splash Contributor

Last April, BiJay Adams celebrated a decade with the Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District.

As this spring approaches, the longtime lake protection manager will set sail in a new - though not entirely foreign - direction.


ADAMS
Beginning March 1, Adams will take over as LLSWD general manager, replacing Lee Mellish, who has stood at the district helm for 20 years. The selection of Adams was announced at a special meeting of the LLSWD board of commissioners on Jan. 11, concluding a process that began in late December with nearly 30 candidates.

"BiJay is a good pick," said Mellish, who was scheduled to work through Feb. 28. "He's smart and certainly has the ability to think things through."

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LLSWD Commissioner Steve Skipworth said Adams emerged as the most qualified applicantsamong the three finalists who interviewed at district headquarters.

"We felt we had someone in BiJay who cares about the community and had a proven record of excellence as a member of the district staff," Skipworth said. "I think both he and Lee care very much for the environment but understand the importance of weighing that with the responsibility they have for residents of this community." 

Skipworth added that Adams' experience on regional and national committees - he was the first person in Washington state to be certified as a lake manager with the North American Lake Management Society and has been a past president and board member of the Washington State Lake Management Association - stood him in good stead during the interview process.

"All of this background showed leadership skills," Skipworth said.

Adams was originally hired in 2002 as the district's first full-time lake protection manager, a responsibility previously addressed by Mellish and a temporary staff person. Along with overseeing lake water quality, Adams has served as the water resource manager, educating the public about everything from wise irrigation practices to the benefits of phosphorous-free fertilizer.

Adams' job as lake protection manager included historical ties to the formation of the district back in 1973, when water quality at the lake had deteriorated to such a degree that public use was discontinued. The replacement of septic tanks and the installation of a sewer treatment system served as the springboards of a new utility and a fresh start for a beleaguered lake.

"The lake was basically dying," Adams said. "They were able to successfully rehabilitate it."

With a respect for the district's past, Adams said he is enthused about the prospects of navigating LLSWD into the future.

"It will be different as far as management of personnel as well as management of what the district's activities are," Adams said. "It certainly is a big leap in terms of responsibilities, but I'm looking forward to learning new things."

Adams, 37, resides in nearby Hayden, Idaho, with his wife and two sons. He is a native of Idaho and graduated from Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston.

While at Lewis-Clark State, Adams worked for Potlatch Corp., a Spokane-based company specializing in diversified forest products. After graduation, he was employed as an environmental water quality technician with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality in Coeur d'Alene.

Yet it was a hire that Adams missed out on in the Evergreen state that likely led to his position with LLSWD. A solid referral from the Washington Department of Ecology resulted in an interview with Mellish.

"I think that's really how I got that job," Adams said. "Lee called me and I brought my resume. I didn't know it, but apparently I made a good impression (with Ecology)."

Skipworth said Adams' dealings with Ecology and other agencies over the years will be a plus as the district tackles challenges like the mandatory upgrade of the water reclamation plant by March 2018. Adams also brings a wealth of experience working with the city of Liberty Lake, Spokane County and other local jurisdictions. LLSWD Commissioner Kottayam V. Natarajan Jr. said Adams is "one of the reasons people have a lot of respect for the Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District."

"BiJay brings a lot of experience managing programs and projects and working with people within the district," Natarajan said. "He's resourceful and innovative - just the kind of person we need as the district moves forward."

OPEN HOUSE
FOR DR. F. LEE MELLISH
March 1, 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District building, 22510 E. Mission Ave.

The public is invited to celebrate Lee Mellish, who has been serving as LLSWD general manager since 1993, as he retires to the great outdoors. During his 20 year tenure, Mellish has been a catalyst for a number of the utility's successes, including the construction of district headquarters and a major upgrade of the treatment plant. The district was also recognized for a number of honors from the Washington State Department of Ecology while under his leadership. For more details, call 922-5443.

With the passing of longtime commissioner Frank L. Boyle last September and the retirement of Mellish this month, LLSWD faces the task of replacing more than four decades of leadership experience. Natarajan, who was appointed in November to fill Boyle's chair on the board, said he and Adams "are walking into a district that's in great shape."

"We've had a lot of great leaders who have left an excellent legacy," Natarajan said. "I think right now, we have a great team with a good mix of diverse backgrounds."

 Skipworth said a potentially turbulent time for the district has instead resulted in a smooth transition.

"We've brought in two individuals who are very well-respected," he said. "It's important from a community standpoint to have these changes without waves of contention."

Adams said he hopes to have a new lake protection/water resource manager hired by mid-April.

"We'll probably assign more water resource duties to that person," he said.

Mellish has indicated he "is not going anywhere" if Adams and the district need help during the realignment phase. He has already compiled a notebook that contains an overview of general manager duties and "issues the district deals with."

Adams said working with Mellish for more than a decade will be a benefit as he treads into new management waters.  

"I've learned Lee's management style and how he's done what's best for the district - those are certainly things I've paid attention to," Adams said. "I'll be developing my management style, but I've definitely learned from Lee's example. I want continuity and to uphold the reputation the district has established."